Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Flu Vaccine Shortages Hit the UK

Medicine supply problems and out-of-date email lists have prevented some London pharmacies from delivering a commissioned flu vaccine service.
Some pharmacists in the capital were still "in the blind" about when the flu vaccine was going to arrive, despite the service having launched two weeks ago, LPC consortium Pharmacy London told C+D (October 3).

Other pharmacies had never received the email telling them how to get involved the service, PGD service PharmaDoctor said.

Manufacturer Sanofi, which provides the flu vaccine to many of the pharmacies, said it expected all of its vaccine orders to be delivered to customers on time.

NHS London said individual suppliers were responsible for sourcing the vaccine and that NHS England had worked closely with LPCs to ensure a "sufficient supply".

Almost 1,200 pharmacists across London had expressed an interest in offering the service, which aims to vaccinate at-risk and elderly patients, said Hiten Patel, a member of Pharmacy London's flu team.

But they were at risk of being "stumped by supply issues" because manufacturers had struggled to deliver the vaccine in time for the launch of the service at the end of September, he told C+D last week.

"We're just waiting, that's the problem. We're in the blind because of a lack of knowledge about what the final outcome is going to be," said Mr Patel, who is also chairman of Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow LPC.

Mike Bereza, managing director of PharmaDoctor, which offers flu training, said he had received calls from pharmacists who had missed the deadline to join the scheme because they had not received an email telling them how to sign up.

Mr Bereza thought it was because LPCs held out-of-date email addresses for some pharmacies and warned that it could affect whether the NHS commissioned more services from community pharmacy in the future.

"We're getting commissioned this year [because] we're hungry for new services and we'll make it a success. But if it comes to next year and they say ‘you didn't reach your targets', [pharmacists] will say ‘but you only sent out emails to 50 per cent of us'," he told C+D.

However, Mr Patel said he had not received any complaints from pharmacists who had not received the email. It would have been sent to the same addresses that LPCs use to regularly communicate with pharmacies in their area, he added.

The flu scheme aims to increase vaccine uptake across the capital from 45 per cent to 65 per cent of those considered at risk. Under the scheme, pharmacists will be reimbursed £7.51 per vaccine, the same as GPs.

Any contractor having difficulty sourcing the vaccine should contact their LPC "as their first port of call", an NHS London spokesperson said.


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